In the United States, anyone working in a food production or food processing facility is mandated to wear a hair restraint while working. Nobody wants to see hair in their food, and all staff in food production positions should wear hair nets, bouffant caps, and/or beard snoods during every shift. The FDA’s 2013 Food Code requires food employees to wear “hats, hair coverings or nets, beard restraints, and clothing that covers body hair” at work.

Some employers dictate the length that facial hair can reach before triggering the beard net policy. At Whole Foods, for example, beards and mustaches that are shorter than a half-inch don’t require covering, but anything over that limit does (the FDA is uncharacteristically silent on the gray area between scruff and beard.)

Have it in mind that customers who find hair in their food are usually disgusted, and are less likely to return to that establishment. It is also a health code violation if hair restraints are not worn or if improper hair restraints are used.

Therefore, it is critical to understand the dangers hair can present as well as the best ways to prevent it from getting into the food you prepare or serve. Extensively understanding this simple topic can improve the food safety culture at your establishment.

Note that it is quite easier to prevent hair from getting into food than trying to repair any damage done because a hair restraint was not worn or improperly used. Hair can present a physical hazard, especially since it is usually unexpected. A physical hazard is an object that can cause your customers to choke or injure themselves.

Also, note that hair can be a biological hazard. It can have several types of pathogens on it, including Staphylococcus bacteria. This bacteria can cause food borne illness that make your customers sick. While it is normal to have these pathogens on your skin and hair, it is imperative to keep them out of the food.

According to the FDA Food Code, hair restraints including hair nets, baseball caps, or hats are acceptable to wear. The primary aim is to use a hair covering that will hold any dislodged hair in place so it doesn’t fall into food or onto equipment.

Hair restraints can also help keep you from touching your hair and contaminating your hands. There are many types of hair nets and baseball caps that can be used. If you choose to use a disposable hair net, be sure to throw it away once you are done or if it has a hole in it.

Meanwhile, keeping your hair restraint in good, clean condition is also necessary when it comes to food safety. Just like disposable gloves, disposable hair nets are meant for one use and should be discarded once you are done with them. If you have any questions about acceptable hair restraints, check with your local health department.

Other Workers Expected to Always Wear Hair Restraint

Aside from food handlers and workers in food related establishments, these following workers are expected to always have or wear a hair restraint.

  1. Laboratory Staff

Depending on the substances involved in laboratory experiments or chemical manufacturing processes, hair and beard nets may be protective equipment. Aside from the fact they prevent human hair from contaminating samples, they can keep long hair from getting caught in rotating equipment.

A good number of laboratories in the United States require hair restraints for lab workers. Montana State University’s Laboratory Biosafety Manual even lists hair nets among the personal protective equipment that may be required before staff can enter the lab.

2. Manufacturing Workers at Electronics Plants

Have it in mind that electronics can be quite sensitive, especially during production. Tiny specks of dirt can be enough to disrupt computer components. Some manufacturers work only in designated clean rooms, which limit micro particles in the air. Clean room apparel often includes hair nets and beard covers. The common-sense rule is that if your product could be harmed by a stray hair, have your employees cover up.

Basic Element of a Workplace Hair Restraint Program

Good hygiene keeps the hair clean, and it also provides a side benefit. Washing the hair flushes out loose hairs that have fallen out. The next step is to ensure that the workforce properly contains the hair. Note that it is always up to the establishment to provide the garments (hair restraints and sleeves), and to make sure that the workers understand why it is important to wear them. Hair restraints come in many names, sizes, colors, and formats. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know.

  1. Names

Hair restraints go by many titles. They may be called “hairnets,” “bouffant,” or something else.

  1. Format

Note that format means weaves or apertures. There are hair nets that have a very fine weave with extremely small apertures (< 1/16 inch) and those with coarse weaves (1/4 inch or more). The smaller the aperture, the greater the probability hair will be properly restrained and contained.

  1. Colour

This is indeed an important consideration. Among the colors offered by most suppliers are white, blue, green, red, orange, pink, and yellow. A business establishment should choose a hair restraint that will allow management to determine, at a glance, that the hair restraint is being worn properly.

Note that this is why black or brown hair restraints are a bad idea; it is really hard to see whether someone with dark hair is wearing their hairnet properly. Some suppliers also offer hairnets and bouffant caps in different colors so that a business can color-coordinate its work zones and prevent cross-contamination.

  1. Usage

How beard and mustache restraints are worn is tend to be a crucial issue that must be addressed. Some businesses try to establish policies that define the size or configuration of mustaches and whether a restraint is required (for example, “If the mustache does not go below the top lip, no restraint is required.”) If a man wishes to sport a beard or mustache, he will have to wear a restraint of some sort.

  1. Education

The next and one of the core elements in building a program for restraining hair is to properly educate the work force on how to wear the gear and to make certain that supervisors are overseeing proper use. The basic rules are:

  • Hair nets should cover the hair and the ears.
  • All hair should be restrained within the net.
  • Hair restraints must be worn by every worker entering the processing area, even those workers with shaved heads.
  • No exceptions.


Education is the key and when hiring new employees, personal hygiene and how to properly wear uniforms and hair restraints is expected to be part of the orientation process. If your workforce includes employees who don’t speak English well, make sure your training and materials are bilingual.

The subject of hygiene and hair restraints should be addressed during yearly refresher training sessions. Furthermore, it is a good idea to post pictures that show the right and wrong way to wear a hair net, snood, and sleeves, if they are required.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What Kind Of Hair Restraints Are Acceptable?

Acceptable hair restraints include hairnets, caps, hats, bandanas, beard-nets, or any other device that keeps hair out of food.

  1. Why Should I Wear A Hair Restraint?

You should wear a hair restraint to help you hold any dislodged hair in place so it doesn’t fall into food or onto equipment. Hair restraints also help keep you from touching your hair and contaminating your hands.

  1. Do Food Handlers Need To Wear Hair Restraints?

Yes, and a matter of fact, all food employees preparing, serving, or handling food or utensils shall wear hair restraints, such as hats, hair coverings, or nets, which are designed and worn to effectively keep their hair from contacting prepackaged food, clean equipment, utensils, linens, and related food wares and ingredients.

  1. What Happens If Your Hair Touch or Fall Into The Food While Preparing Food?

Of course accidents do happen, and if you see that your hair has touched or fallen into the food you are preparing, throw it away. Clean and sanitize your equipment and start over. It may seem extreme, but because hair presents a biological hazard, it can transfer pathogens quickly to any surface it touches.

  1. Why Is It Important To Tie Back Hair When Cooking?

It is important to tie back hair when cooking because if hair is not tied back or covered, it is more likely to fall into food.

  1. Can Food Handlers Wear Nail Polish Or Artificial Nails?

According to the 2017 FDA Food Code, the food employee may wear artificial nails or fingernail polish ONLY IF they also wear gloves that are clean and in good condition. Although, it is a best practice to forgo the nails and polish or check your company policy.

  1. If You Are A Cook Are You Allowed To Wear Leggings When Cooking?

To be honest, when working in a hot kitchen, you don’t want to be wearing jeans or leggings. The pants should cover your entire leg and be a comfortable fit around the waist. Try them on before you buy. If you’re going to be wearing these pants for over 8 hours a day, they need to be comfortable to wear.

  1. What Should You Not Wear In The Kitchen?

Wearing an apron will keep your clothes clean. If you don’t have an apron, an old shirt will do. But don’t wear anything that’s big and loose. Baggy sleeves or clothes could catch fire or get caught in mixer beaters or other equipment.

  1. What Are The Rules Of Personal Hygiene For A Food Handler?

One of the most important habits when working as a food handler is the correct HAND WASHING. Hand washing will be frequent and there are times when it is mandatory. Wash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap, rubbing well between your fingers, and with a hand brush between your nails.

  1. Can Food Handlers Wear Rings?

According to the FDA, food workers can only wear a plain ring like a wedding band while they work. No other items are allowed, including medical alert bracelets, rings with jagged edges (like diamond rings), bracelets, and watches.

  1. Do Restaurant Employees Have To Wear Hair Nets?

Yes, and as a matter of fact, anyone of the food service staff working with exposed food, etc, such as in the kitchen or on the serving line, should wear a hair restrain, such as a hat or hairnet.

  1. Can Food Handlers Wear Watches?

No, food handlers cannot wear watches because pathogens can get trapped under jewelry, which creates a biological hazard. In addition, jewelry, such as bracelets, watches, and rings, could fall into food, creating a physical hazard. Jewelry should never be worn when working with food for these reasons.

  1. Do Food Handlers Need To Wear An Apron?

It depends and as a matter of fact, most municipal health codes do not go so far as to specifically mandate aprons but nearly all require clean protective garments to be worn in food preparation areas and when handling food. Please note that disposable aprons are also acceptable in most cases.

  1. What Should Be The Proper Attire Of A Food Handler?

Work clothes should be exclusively for work and food handling, and should preferably be light-colored. They should be clean and neat, and should not be taken out on the street or in places where it may become contaminated.

  1. What Is ANSI For Food Handlers?

The American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, is an accrediting body that participates in the food safety training industry.

  1. What Kind Of Pants Do McDonald’s Workers Wear?

There is a strict policy on what kinds of pants McDonald’s workers can wear. With the latest uniform design, the worker must wear black colored pants. A formal or casual black pant is accepted.

  1. When Must A Food Handler Wash Your Hands?

As a food handler, your hands should be washed as often as necessary and always: Before starting work, before handling cooked or ready-to-eat food, after handling or preparing raw food.

  1. What Is FSSC 22000 Certification?

FSSC 22000 is a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarked food safety standard. FSSC 22000 is based on the widely recognized Food Management System Standard ISO 22000, the industry relevant Pre-Requisite Program (PRP) and FSSC defined additional requirements.

  1. Can Food Handlers Wear Earrings?

Similar to rings, only simple stud earrings are generally allowed to be worn by food handlers. This could include, earrings, necklaces, and facial jewelry. Safety is of the utmost importance as a food handler. Wear clean clothes, take off your jewelry, keep your hair in check and everything will be fine.

  1. Do You Have To Pull Your Hair Back Or Wear A Hair Net While Working?

Absolutely, which is why you must always remember to wear proper hair restraints like a hair net, baseball cap, or visor when working around food. The truth is that keeping your hands and gloves clean will help prevent pathogens from contaminating the food you prepare and serve.

  1. What Is The Importance Of Seminars And Continuous Training For Food Server?

A well-trained workforce saves your restaurant time and money, and it also increases your profitability. Therefore, ensure that every member of your team from the wait and kitchen staff to the managers receives solid and continuous training to remain outstanding in the highly competitive industry.

  1. What Is The Difference Between A Waist Apron And A Bib Apron?

While waist aprons only cover one-half of the wearer’s body, bib aprons wrap around the wearer’s neck or shoulders to cover his or her chest as well. The main trade-off with bib aprons is that some people may experience limited mobility wearing them, depending on how the upper portion of the apron is held up.

  1. Are There Precautions To Take While Eating In A Restaurant During The COVID-19 Pandemic?

According to WHO, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted by food, including fresh fruits and vegetables. The virus can be killed while cooking food at temperatures of at least 70°C.

Food buffets are not recommended because of the risk of close physical contact with others, shared serving implements and multiple people touching the surfaces on the buffet. Indoor dining spaces should have a maximum of 4 people in 10 square meters. The distance from the back of one chair to the back of another chair should be at least 1 meter apart for both indoor and outdoor dining, and guests that face each other should also be at this distance.

  1. What Is The Difference Between ISO 22000 And FSSC 22000?

ISO 22000 and FSSC 22000 are both international standards and both relate to the most important components for ensuring food safety. The main difference between the two certifications is that the FSSC 22000 scheme, in contrast to the ISO standard, is recognized by the GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative).

  1. How Do I Get FSSC 22000 Certified?
  • Visit the section Scheme documents on their website to download the Scheme requirements (free of charge).
  • Contact an FSSC 22000 licensed Certification Body.
  • Once the audit is deemed successful, the Certification Body will register the certificate.
  1. What Important Matters Should Be Considered When Cleaning A Restaurant?

Surface area cleaning should be done with clean towels that have not been used on surfaces in other areas of the restaurant, such as the restroom or kitchen. Restaurant table cleaner that meets sanitization standards is recommended. It is also necessary to ensure condiment bottles and menus are disinfected regularly.

  1. How Do You Get A Food Service License?
  • You will fill out the application and submit it.
  • The health department will make an in-person visit to your restaurant.
  • Once your Food Service License is approved and obtained, the local health department will continue to make regular visits to inspect your restaurant.
  1. Why And When Would You Need To Use An Apron?

Wearing an apron prevents your food coming into contact with the dust, dirt, hair, germs and whatever else might have been floating around you throughout your day. Please note that wearing an apron allows you to make a statement to those around you while you’re cooking.

Joy Nwokoro